Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Dale S. Niederhauser


Constructivist theories about knowledge construction emphasize that knowledge construction is more powerful and meaningful when it is actively built up by students through engaging in equilibrated exchanges and experiencing cognitive disequilibrium. From this perspective, knowledge construction is thought to be effective in learning environments where intense interactive discussions can take place, deeply held values are shared, and complex issues examined from multiple perspectives (Harasim, 1990). Computer-mediated communication, more specifically computer conferencing systems (CCS), has captured the interest of educators as an ideal tool to create this type of learning environment, featuring active, participative, and reflective learning;This study developed a conceptual framework, based on constructivist learning principles, to examine whether knowledge construction was promoted through computer conferencing in two graduate-level bioethics courses. Data collection focused on CCS transcripts, supplemented by student survey, instructor interviews, field notes, and course documentation. Knowledge construction through computer conferencing was examined from three main constructivist educational principles: (1) active participation---participation analysis was conducted to determine the nature of students' participation in the learning process, (2) peer-to-peer interaction---content analysis for interaction types, intermessage reference analysis, and message map analysis for interaction patterns were conducted, and (3) cognitive conflict resolution---content analysis based on Gunawardena et al. (1997) interaction analysis model framework was conducted to examine whether cognitive conflicts experienced in CCS promoted knowledge construction;The findings of this study revealed that participation in the computer conferencing was moderate; interaction among students usually occurred through confirming or elaborating on the information/statement; and the predominance of computer conference transcripts reflected the first two phases of the knowledge construction process (i.e., sharing and comparing information, and exploration of dissonances among concepts and/or ideas);The results of this study suggest that CCS by itself does not guarantee knowledge construction. The instructor's role in designing computer conferencing as a learning environment is crucial for fostering knowledge construction. This study provided insights into the nature of the knowledge construction process in a CCS environment and recommendations that help utilize computer conferencing technology in educational settings for students to construct knowledge more effectively.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Mustafa Tuncay Saritas



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

231 pages